Racing…to the bottom

The American presidential elections have shown the world that two wrongs don’t make a right. It seems to many that this is a race to the bottom, and yet this should be the epitome of choice and excellence. However, like some industries, the goal to make things better seems to get in the way of competing at the lowest level.

I can’t help but wonder where the residential construction industry also went so wrong. No one individual, organisation or association is to blame, yet the results are lackluster and unspectacular and instead of delivering more, the industry is fighting to deliver less.

Compare this to the car industry. Plagued with unreliability and safety issues in the 1960s, the industry grew some respectability with the introduction of Japanese-based quality management systems and then after a reshuffle of global brand ownerships the evolution began. The launch of the global car began – new technology, more fuel efficiency, improved lean manufacturing, with of course increased reliability, increased safety and increased customer care. You can now buy a new 5 star safety rated vehicle for under $17,000, complete with sophisticated technology features only available in more expensive luxury cars a few years earlier.

The desire to exceed customer expectations is illustrated with the development story of the Ford Focus. A global car that was designed over 20 years ago using an age-experience suit to ensure that users with different abilities were catered for in the design, improved understanding about the needs of the ageing population.

Their research indicated that strength and flexibility in people was reduced by up to 24% as we aged, which made it more difficult to get in and out of the car. The Focus design addressed these issues, and as a result it has been one of the best selling cars in the world.

Now let’s consider what progress we have made in residential dwellings. The proliferation of small businesses offering designs that have no or minimal Universal Design considerations is mind-blowing. Try navigating most of these home designs and you will see how almost no thought has been given to our ageing and changing population.

The majority of building guarantees on offer relate to ensuring the product does not leak…Really, it’s like stating that a car will start and stop, hardly anything to be proud of, yet alone can be the basis of a marketing campaign.

Where is the innovation, the ease of living in design, the use of technology to incorporate health and safety advancements and the general desire to provide for the needs of the customer and the different types of customers who will use the dwelling?

Fortunately we have a few talented designers who introduce these innovations and some of the building and development organisations are now moving in this direction and their market positioning and innovation is welcomed. For the rest, however, the results will continue to be disappointing and as consumers and customers we all deserve better.

As always please feel free to contact me on geoff@lifemark.co.nz as we turn houses into homes for everyone.

Geoff Penrose
General Manager
Email: geoff@lifemark.co.nz

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